Colors of Eretz Israel

“Machanooga” is the Jewish Sunday School School in Chattanooga, presently located at my Temple, Mizah Congregation.  This January/February Glyn and I have been teaching 6 of the students to weave, on rigid heddle looms.  The Project, “Colors of Eretz Israel,” has a square woven by each student, representing Israel wildflowers.

Eretz Colors

The squares woven by the students (4th and 5th grade) are, clockwise from top left:  Anemone, Bryony, Cornflower, Cyclamen, Aloe, and Mandrake.  They were woven on Kromnski Harp rigid heddle looms.  The center panel is a field of Galilee wildflowers, woven by Glyn om here Schacht 8-shaft loom.  The blue strip is the River Jordan, woven by Will on his Schacht 4-shaft loom.  Next Sunday the kids will help put on the finishing touches, and present the tapestry as a gift to Machanooga!  You can see more pictures on our Facebook page, here:


Blowing the Shofar on Rosh Hashana

Why Do We Blow the Shofar on Rosh Hashana?


For every five Jews there are ten reasons for blowing the Shofar on Erev Rosh Hashana. The Orthodox have their reasons, the Conservatives have their reasons, the Reformed have their reasons, the Reconstructionists have their reasons. Everyone has their reasons! For Humanistic Judaism, Rosh Hashana is a time of looking backwards and looking forwards. Backwards at the year we have just finished, forward at the new year to come. A good time for reflection. A good time for commitment. And so there are a few reasons why we Humanistic Jews blow the Shofar on Rosh Hashana.

1. Because our Ancestors blew the Shofar on Rosh Hashana!

The attitude of “We’ve always done it that way!” is not always helpful, we know. Clinging to the past can be a problem, if it gets us stuck there and prevents us from enjoying the present or moving into the future. But “Tradition” is not all bad! It helps us remember who we are, where we came from, and the generations who lived and died in this world so that we might also live and die, and pass on a heritage to generations yet to come.

In the Book of Leviticus (Vayikra – and He spoke), our Ancestors proclaimed:

And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: Speak unto the children of Israel, saying:
In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall be a solemn rest unto you, a memorial proclaimed with the blast of horns, a holy convocation. Ye shall do no manner of servile work; and ye shall bring an offering made by fire unto the LORD.

and in the Book of Numbers (Bamidbar – in the Wilderness):

And in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, ye shall have a holy convocation: ye shall do no manner of servile work; it is a day of blowing the horn unto you

You want the chapter and verse for these proclamations? Better you should look it up yourself!

As our ancestors did before us, so we do, and so shall our children shall do after us. It is a way of remembering that we are Jews, and proclaiming that memory to the ages.

2. It is our Annual Alarm Clock!

From the end of the High Holidays to their beginning, we go through all the rest of the year about our business of living. And we do not always remember the important things. Especially, we may grow lax in the three principles of Rosh Hashana: Teshuvah, Tefillah, and Tzedakah.

Teshuvah (Returning): A return to our true selves, an honest self-evaluation of the life we have lived during the past year.

Tefillah (Repentance): Being honest about our ethical failures, what can we do in the year ahead to improve?

Tzedakah (Charitable Giving): Giving of ourselves to others in need is a moral obligation, and by offering hope and healing to others, we ourselves become better persons.

Of course we intend to practice Teshuvah, Tefillah, and Tzedakah every day of the year! But, sometimes we forget, sometimes we fall asleep. The Shofar is our alarm clock.

3. It Makes a lot of Noise!

The ending of the old year is a time of celebration! And what is a celebration without a lot of Noise? On The fourth of July we shoot off fireworks. On Decmeber 31, the civil New Year, we blow horns and employ noisemakers of all kinds. On Erev Rosh Hashana, we blow the Ram’s Horn! For our ancient Ancestors, back before our Jewish ones, all this noise on New Year’s Eve had another important purpose: to scare away any evil spirits that might slip into the world through the crack between the old year and the new. Could this be helpful today? Who knows? It couldn’t hurt!

4. It Honors the King!

Okay, today most of us do not have a king. But our Ancestors did. And whenever the King showed up, trumpets were blown. Today we blow the Shofar to honor what is regal in every human being!

5. The Primal Scream!

Some people say the Shofar sounds like a primal scream out of the depths of time. And they are right. It is the scream of humanity born of fear, hope, rage, joy – the eternal cry for meaning in this universe where we find ourselves.

You know, we could go on and on. Doubtless you know many other good reasons for blowing the Shofar on Rosh Hashana, from announcing dinner is served, to reminding our neighbors there are Jews in the neighborhood, to simply “that’s what my family (or my congregation) always did.”

But most of all, it is to proclaim L’Shana Tovah: For A Good Year, a Sweet Year, a Year of Joy and Hope!

~ Walter William Melnyk
Rosh Hashana 5778

Learn a Little Yiddish; Couldn’t Hurt, Nu?

Learn a Little Yiddish

Selected Yiddish Words and Phrases – impress your friends and family

keep-calm-and-speak-yiddish-3A BI GEZUNT: So long as you’re healthy. Expression means, “Don’t worry so much about a problem, whatever it is. You’ve still got your health.”

ALTER COCKER: An old and complaining person, an old fart.

AY-YAY-YAY: A Joyous, or at times sarcastic, exclamation.

BALABUSTA: The wife of an important person or a bossy woman.

BEI MIR BIST DU SHAYN: To me you’re beautiful.

BERRYER: Denotes a woman who has excellent homemaking skills. Considered a compliment in the pre-feminist era.


BOBBEMYSEH: Old wive’s tales, nonsense.

BOYCHICK: An affectionate term for a young boy.

BROCHE: A prayer.

BUBBA: A grandmother.

BUBBALA: A term of endearment, darling.

BUPKES: Something worthless or absurd.

CHAYA: An animal. “Vilda Chaya,” a wild animal, is a term used to describe unruly children.

CHAZEREI: Food that is awful, junk or garbage.

CHUTZPAH: Nerve; gall, as in a person who kills her parents and asks for mercy because she is an orphan.

DRECK: Shit. Can refer to the ugliness of objects or people.

ESS: Eat.

FAYGALA: A male homosexual. (literally, little bird.)

FERBLUNJIT: Lost, mixed up.

FERCOCKT: All fucked up.

FERDRAYT: Dizzy, confused.

FARPITZS: All dressed up.

FERMISHT: All shook up, as in an acute disturbance.

FERSHLUGINA: Beaten up, messed up, no good.

FERSHTAY?: Do you understand.

FERSHTINKINER: A stinker, a louse.

FERTUMMELT: Befuddled, confused.

FRESS: To eat like an animal, i.e., quickly, noisily, and in great quantity. (Compare with ess, to eat like a human being.)

GAVALT: A cry of fear or a cry for help. Oy Gevalt is often used as expression meaning “oh how terrible.”

GAY AVEK: Go away, get out of here.

GAY GA ZINTA HATE: Go in good health. Often said in parting but can be spoken with irony to mean, “go do your own thing.”

GAY SHLAFEN: Go to sleep.

GELT: Money.

GONIF: A thief, a tricky clever person, a shady character.

GOY: A derogatory term meaning gentile, goyim is the plural, and goyisher is the adjective.

GREPSE: To belch.

GORNISHT: Nothing. Often used in a sarcastic manner, as in what did you get from her? Gunisht.

HAYMISH: Informal, friendly. A haimisher mensch is someone you feel comfortable with.

HOK A CHAINIK: To talk too much, to talk nonsense.

KIBITZ: To offer comments which are often unwanted during a game, to tease or joke around. A kibitzer gives unasked for advice.

KINE-AHORA: A magical phrase to ward off the evil eye or to show one’s praises are genuine and not tainted by envy.

KISHKA: Intestines, belly. To hit someone in the “kishka” means to hit him in the stomach or guts.

KLUTZ: An awkward, uncoordinated person.

KOSHER: Refers to food that it prepared according to Jewish law. More generally kosher means legitimate.

KVELL: To beam with pride and pleasure, Jewish parents are prone to kvell over their children’s achievements.

KVETCH: To annoy or to be an annoying person, to complain.

LOCH IN KOP: Literally a hole in the head, refers to things one definitely does not need.

LUFTMENSH: A dreamer, someone whose head is in the clouds.

LUZZEM: Leave him be, let her or him alone.

MACH SHNEL: Hurry up.

MACHER: An ambitious person; a schemer with many plans.

MAVEN: An expert, a connoisseur.

MAZEL TOV: Good luck, usually said as a statement of support or congratulations.

MEESA MASHEENA: A horrible death. The phrase “a messa mashee af deer” means a horrible death to you and is used as a curse. Some have suggested that Masheena is the origin for the insulting name for Jews of sheeny.

MEESKAIT: A little ugly one; a person or thing.

MEGILLAH: Long, complicated and boring.

MENSCH: A person of character. An individual of recognized worth because of noble values or actions.

MESHUGGE or MESHUGGINA: Crazy, refers to a more chronic disturbance.

MISHEGOSS: Inappropriate, crazy, or bizarre actions or beliefs.

MISHPOCHA: Family, usually extended family.

MOMZER: A bastard, an untrustworthy person.

MOYL: The man who circumcises baby boys at a briss.

NACH A MOOL: And so on.

NACHES: Joy. To “shep naches” means to derive pleasure. Jewish children are expected to provide their parent with naches in the form of achievement.

NAFKA: A whore.

NARRISHKEIT: Foolishness, trivia.

NEBBISH: An inadequate person, a loser.

NOODGE: To bother, to push, a person who bothers you.

NOSH: To snack. NOSHERYE refers to food.

NU: Has many meanings including, “so?; How are things?; how about it?; What can one do?; I dare you!”

NUDNIK: A pest, a persistent and annoying person.

ONGEPOTCHKET: Messed up, slapped together without form, excessively and unesthetically decorated.

OY-YOY-YOY: An exclamation of sorrow and lamentation.

OY VEY: “Oh, how terrible things are”. OH VEZ MEAR means “Oh, woe is me”.

PISHER: A bed-wetter, a young inexperienced person, a person of no consequence.

PLOTZ: To burst, to explode, “I can’t laugh anymore or I’ll “plotz.” To be aggravated beyond bearing.

POTCHKA: To fool around; to be busy without a clear goal.

PUPIK: Belly button.

PUTZ: A vulgarism for penis but most usually used as term of contempt for a fool, or an easy mark.

RACHMONES: Compassion.

SAYKHEL: Common sense.

SCHLOCK: A shoddy, cheaply made article, something thats been knocked around.

SCHMALTZ: Literally chicken fat. Usually refers to overly emotional and sentimental behavior.

SCHMUCK: A vulgarism for penis, strong putdown for a jerk, a detestable person.

SHADKHEN: a professional matchmaker.

SHANDA: A shame, a scandal. The expression “a shanda fur die goy” means to do something embarrassing to Jews where non-Jews can observe it.

SHAYGETS: A gentile boy and man, also means a clever lad or rascal.

SHAYNER: Pretty, wholesomely attractive, as in shayner maidel (woman.)

SHIKSA: A gentile girl or woman.

SHLEMIEL: A dummy; someone who is taken advantage of, a born loser.

SHLEP: To carry or to move about. Can refer to a person, a “shlepper,” who is unkempt and has no ambition.

SHLIMAZL: A chronically unlucky person, a born loser, when a shlimazl sells umbrella the sun comes out.

SHMENDRICK: A weak and thin pipsqueak. The opposite of mensch, a a physically small shlemiel.

SHMEGEGGE: A petty person, an untalented person.

SHMATTA: A rag, often used as a putdown for clothes of the unfashionably dressed.

SHMEER: To spread as in to “shmeer” butter on bread. Can also mean to bribe and can refer to the “whole package”, as in I’ll accept the whole shmeer.

SHMOOZ: To hang out with, a friendly gossipy talk.


SHNORRER: A begger, a moocher, a cheapskate, a chiseler.

SHNOZ: A Nose. Jimmy Durante was known as a the great shnoz.

SHTETL: A Jewish ghetto village.

SHTIK: A stick or thing. Often refers to an individual’s unique way of presenting themselves, as in “She is doing her shtik.”

SHTUNK: A stinker, a nasty person or a scandalous mess.

SHTUP: An expression for sexual intercourse, to “screw.”

SHVITZ: To sweat, also refers to a Turkish bath house. A shvitzer means a braggart, a showoff.

SHVANTZ: A word for penis.

SPIEL: To play, as in to play a game.

TCHOTCHKA: An inexpensive trinket, a toy. Can also mean a sexy but brainless girl. The affectionate diminutive is tchotchkala.

TSETUMMELT: Confused, bewildered.

TSIMMES: A side dish, a prolonged procedure, an involved and troubling business, as in the phrase, “don’t make a tsimmes out of it.”

TSORISS: Suffering, woes.

TSUTCHEPPENISH: Something irratating that attaches itself like an obsession. She has a tsutcheppenish that is driving everyone crazy.

TUCHES: Backside, ass, “tuches lecker” means ass kisser, one who shamelessly curries favor with superiors.

TUMMEL: Noise, commotion, disorder.

UNGABLUZUM: To look as if one is going to cry.

VER CLEMPT: All choked up.

VUS MACHS DA: What’s happening? What’s up?

YENTA: A busybody, usually refers to an older woman.

YENTZ: Course word for sexual intercourse. Also means to cheat or screw someone. Yentzer is the noun.

ZAFTIG: Juicy, plump. Can refer to food, ideas or people. A buxom woman.

ZIE GA ZINK: Wishing someone good health.

ZETZ: A strong blow or punch.

ZEYDE: Grandfather, or old man.

ZHLUB: An insensitive, ill-mannered person, a clumsy individual.

Marty Fiebert Department of Psychology CSULB

Gai feifen afenyam/Gai kakhen afenyam
go whistle in the ocean/go shit in the ocean
(Go jump in a lake. I think the second version is more common, but try telling that to a skittish editor.)

Zolst ligen in drerd! :You should lie in the earth! (Drop dead.)

Ver derharget: Get killed (Drop dead)

Gey gezunterheyt: Go in good health
(Yeah, go do whatever you like. Fine, don’t listen to me. See if I care anymore.)

Gornisht helfn: Beyond help

Lokh in kop: Hole in the head

Tokhis oyfn tish: Put up or shut up

A brokh tsu dayn lebn.: Your life should be a disaster

A khalerye: A plague on you

A shaynem dank dir im pupik.: Many thanks in your belly button.
(Thanks for nothing. Say it fast and it sounds delightfully insulting.)

Ikh hob dir in drerd: Go to hell

A shvarts yor: A miserable year
(you should have…)

Alter kaker: Old shit
(Old fart)

Mamzer: Bastard

Schmuck: S.O.B.

Tsatskele: Bimbo

Tokhis leker: Ass-kisser

Shtup: Have sex. Screw. Boink.

Tokhis: Derriere

Zaftik: Stacked

Alivay: It should only happen

Farshtinkener: Rotten
(awful person)

A Humanistic Yom HaShoah

Our celebration on April 23 at 6:30 PM

Yom Hashoah

The Day of the Holocaust
and the Heroism

April 23-24, 2017

Am HaHar
People of the Mountain
Sewanee, Tennessee

Yom HaShoah v’Hagevurah

I. Yahrzeit Candle

On this most solemn of occasions, we open our hearts, minds, and souls, as we remember the six million, the indifference, and the evil. May we be present for one another for healing, light, and love to soothe and ease our pain, as we commemorate the horrors that were committed not long ago.

May we forever remember the stories we hear. As tales of the atrocities are shared, as we re-encounter the unthinkable, may these memories be strengthened and never fade, in the hope that those who remember the mistakes of the past will not repeat them.

We say “never again” and we dedicate ourselves to this principle, to the idea that justice does not allow persecution, that genocide shall not be repeated, and that vigilance is the responsibility of freedom, at all costs, that these horrors remain but memories.

Above all, may shalom—wholeness and peace—be in our midst, now and forever.

Light the Yahrzeit Candle

Each person may offer memories of Loved Ones
Names may be written on slips of paper and placed under the Yahrzeit Candle

II. Kiddish Cup

We raise this cup of wine mindful of all it took for us to receive it.
The sun and soil and rain, gifts of Nature
The efforts and vision of our fellow human beings
Together bringing forth the Fruit of the Vine, the Cup of Life

B’rukheem ha-adamah
Ha-shemesh, V’Ha-geshem
Asher yotzrim p’ree ha-gafen

We rejoice in the earth,
the sun, and the rain,
which produces the fruit of the vine.
Rabbi Miriam Jerris

All drink from the Kiddish Cup, saying


III. Readings and Music
Readings from “Pavel’s Violin” by Will Melnyk
Violin Music by Lucie Carlson

1. Chapter 26: “In The ruts of the Herd” pp. 10-14
2. Chapter 29: “Touching the Dead” pp. 4-7
3. Chapter 32: “Whatever It Takes” pp. 12-16
4. Chapter 33: “The Wind In The Lyre” pp. 8-13

IV. A Humanistic Kaddish

Yit-gad-dal v’-yit-kad-dash sh’-la-ma b’a-l’ma.
Niv-ra sh’-la-ma khee-r’-oo-ta-na v’-nam-leekh mal-khoo-tay B’khie-yay-khon oo-v’-yo-maykhon oo-v’-khie-yay d’-khol bayt yis-ra-el
Ba-ah-ga-la oo-vee-z’-man ka-reev. v’-eem-roo, shalom.
Y’-hay sh’-la-ma rab-ba m’-va-raykh l’-a-lam oo-l’-al-may al-mie-ya.
Yit-ba-rakh v’-yish-ta-bakh yit-pa-ar v’-yit-ro-mam v’-yit-nas-say v’-yit-ha-dar v’-yit-ah-le
V’-yit-hal-lal sh’-la-ma b’-al-ma b’-reekh hoo. L’-ay-la min kol bir-kha-ta v’-shee-ra-ta toosh-b’-kha-ta
V’-ne-he-ma-ta da-a-mee-ran b’-alma v-ee-m’-roo sha-lom.
Y’-hay sh’-la-ma rab-ba v’-hie-yeem A-lay-noo v’-al kol yis-ra-el v’-eem-roo sha-lom
Na-a-se sha-lom ba-o-lam a-lay-noo v’-al kol yis-ra-el v’-eem-roo sha-lom.

Wonderful is peace in the world. Let us create a peaceful world and let us establish its kingdom now and in the future. May peace come to bless our lives. May we always continue to honor peace in the world even though no praise can equal the importance of its reality. May peace and life prevail for us and for all Israel. Let us work to create peace here on earth for all people. And let us say, Shalom.
Rabbi Sherwin Wine

Preparing for a Humanistic Passover

Great resources for a Secular Humanistic Passover celebration from Rabbi Chalom.

Shalom from Rabbi Chalom

If the Exodus isn’t historical, what do we do for Passover? Fortunately, you’re not on your own – there are a number of resources, haggadot and more that can make the season meaningful and memorable for Humanistic Jews (and the humanistically-inclined). Here are a few of them:

An historical essay on the origins of the holiday (by yours truly) in the online journal “Secular Culture and Ideas”.

Exploring the values of the Passover holiday for secular and Humanistic Jews (again by yours truly from “Secular Culture and Ideas”).

The sales listing for Rabbi Sherwin Wine’s The Humanist Haggadah (1978), which will be a featured exhibit this Passover season at the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia.

A selection from the wonderful The Liberated Haggadah: A Passover Celebration for Cultural, Secular and Humanistic Jews by Rabbi Peter Schweitzer explaining the major symbols of the holiday. My family has…

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Affiliating with the Society for Humanistic Judaism

Hello All ~

Our group is now preparing to apply for affiliation with the Society for Humanistic Judaism, to become part of a larger worldwide Jewish community, and to be a visible presence in our community for folks who wish to affirm and celebrfate their Jewish heritage, but are not comfortable in a more religious setting.

There are different ways for our group to do this. The one that seems to fit us is the become a “Havura” community, which is a community with 3 to 25 households. We are not likely ever to be any larger on the Mountain.

The annual affiliation fee for this size group is $250.00, which must be submitted with the application. I am prepared to cover the first year’s fee, to get us started. But I’d like to offer to you the chance to contribute. (In the future, the annual fee would be divided equally among the member families.) Please contact me directly to let me know if you’d like to make a contribution. This would make you a member of People of the Mountain and the Society for Humanistic Judaism.

Find out more about the Society here:

And here’s a bit about why to affiliate as a communityfrom the SHJ website:


humanorah_society_for_humanistic_judaismNo community in your area? With a limited number of affiliates and the increased mobility of the Jewish people, often Humanistic Jews find themselves in communities where there are no affiliates of the Society for Humanistic Judaism. Members relocate to retirement communities or to be near their children. Children raised in Humanistic Judaism leave their childhood community for college or careers.


Being part of an SHJ community gives opportunity for a like-minded group of individuals to celebrate holidays, study together, educate children, and provide support in times of joy and sorrow.

The Society for Humanistic Judaism helps individual members to connect with other Humanistic Jews in their area. We assist you in developing strategies to reach out to like-minded secular and cultural Jews. The SHJ Rabbi and Executive Director provide support as the community grows.

Resources are available to support organizing efforts – Shabbat and holiday materials, advertising and marketing tools, adult and youth educational curricula, YouTube videos and DVDs describing the philosophy and practice of Humanistic Judaism. It may be possible to arrange a visit from the SHJ Rabbi.

There are three paths to connect to other Humanistic Jews:

Organize an SHJ Community for communities that will ultimately consist of 25 or more household members.
Organize an SHJ Havura for communities that will likely have less than 25 household members by choice or by limitations beyond the control of the organizers.
Become involved in SHJ’s on-line Facebook page and discussion forum for individual members.

The requirements and benefits of these options vary. Please contact Rabbi Miriam Jerris for more information about organizing an SHJ affiliate in your area.

We are now working to organize Humanistic Jewish communities in: Indianapolis, IN; Orlando, FL; Kansas City, MO and Milwaukee, WI. These communities have individuals serving as contacts. (And Sewanee!)

We have also had multiple requests about HJ communities in Southern New Jersey; Central New Jersey; Madison, WI; Dallas TX; Houston, TX, Central, MD; New Orleans, LA; Rhode Island; and Las Vegas, NV. We are unable to move to the next step in these areas because no one has offered to serve as a contact person. If you are willing to be a contact person, please email Rabbi Miriam Jerris.

So please contact me directly if you want more information, or if you can join with me in covering the initial annual fee of $250.00 (You certainly can participate fully with our little group whether you contribute or not!!)

Will Melnyk

Hamantaschen Class!

We’re having a Hamantaschen Making Class this Saturday!


 Hamantaschen Class – Saturday, February 18th
1:00 – 3:00 PM
at the home of Glyn & Will Melnyk
Make your Hamanstaschen for Purim
Only 1 space left, so register now!
No charge, but a $5.00 donation is requested for materials.
Presented by People of the Mountain

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